Cerralvo Island Picture

CERRALVO ISLAND By Enrique Hambleton

The large Island directly in front of Las Cruces is called Isla Cerralvo. Herewith a brief note on the origins of its name and other interesting facts.

In 1632, a colorful ship’s captain by the name of Francisco de Ortega found himself in the port of Acaponeta, Nayarit and had heard of previous expeditions to California. He had his own frigate and wanted to try his luck at exploring that land. King Philip IV of Spain had recently suspended any new efforts to explore that difficult and inhospitable place as all attempts to do so had met with failure. Captain Ortega contacted Don Rodrigo Pacheco y Olivares, marqués de Cerralvo who was Viceroy of New Spain from 1640 to 1635, asking for his permission to go to California, not precisely to explore it, but to find out if said exploration was worthwhile. With this ingenious proposal he obtained the requested authorization.

He made three voyages between 1632 and 1636, exploring from the Cape region to the 28th parallel. Ortega’s diaries described what he saw in great detail and in the process he gave names to a good many islands. In recognition of the authorization granted him by the Viceroy he gave the name of Cerralvo to the island in front of Las Cruces.

If you look closely, you can see that Cerralvo Island is not covered with the abundant vegetation seen around Las Cruces. This is due to many thousands of feral goats which live on the island and eat pretty much everything that sprouts. These animals were deposited on Cerralvo and many other islands in the Sea of Cortés by ships plying its waters since the 17th Century to ensure a source of meat in the event of scarcity or ship wreck. Because they have no natural enemies their numbers have grown exponentially over the centuries.